Careless driving will be brought into line with the rest of the UK once legislation passes through the Stormont Assembly.
The announcement has been made by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon MLA and follows a recent consultation on the subject that asked if the offence should be dealt with at the roadside by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN).
Of those who responded to the exercise, more than three quarters said that careless driving should be a FPN offence, said Minister Mallon, and 68% agreed with the proposed penalty – a £100 fine and 3 penalty points. If this approach is adopted it would keep offending parties out of the court system.
The consultation also considered the potential for the introduction of Operation SNAP in Northern Ireland where the PSNI would accept road users’ dash cam footage that captures irresponsible or inappropriate behaviour on the roads.
74% of those who responded supported this initiative, although Minister Mallon said a decision on the introduction of this approach would fall squarely at the feet of the PSNI.
“Unfortunately, careless driving is the main contributor to road traffic collisions in Northern Ireland involving injuries,” said the SDLP representative.
“I have made it clear that I take a zero-tolerance approach to irresponsible behaviour on the roads and I am committed to working with partners to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries across our roads network.
“I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the consultation exercise and for sharing their views. Having carefully considered the responses received, I have decided that careless driving should be made a Fixed Penalty Notice offence, open to the offer of remedial training.
“This offence impacts passengers and other road users as well as the careless drivers themselves. This change will make it easier for the police to tackle problem drivers and reduce the number of minor motoring offences coming before our courts.
“It will also deflect police and prosecution resources away from more serious and contested criminal issues by allowing them to immediately issue a fixed penalty notice for low level offending rather than taking these offenders to court.”
She added: “My officials will commence work on drafting the legislation required to introduce this new fixed penalty which will be taken forward as soon as possible in the next mandate.
“This will increase the likelihood of drivers who are guilty of this offence being caught and punished appropriately. This is an important deterrent – and a good news story for law-abiding road users.”